Menu
Coin Typology of

Bizye *

Topography and History

Bizye is a city in the Thracian interior 1  that is located south of the Strandzha Mountains. 2  The city lies away from the major army roads in eastern Thrace, 3  but was still relatively well connected to the important centres of the Balkan peninsula such as Byzantium, Perinth, and Marcianopolis by nearby connecting roads. 4  The two towns of Bergule and Salmydessos are located in the immediate vicinity of Bizye. 5 

If Strabo is to be believed, Bizye was the capital of the Thracian tribe of the Asti. 6  Later, it was the capital and residence of the last Thracian kings, Cotys IV, Rhoemetalces I, Rhoemetalces II, and Rhoemetalces III. 7  We know nothing more about Bizye in the first seventy years after the incorporation of the city into the province of Thrace. The epigraphic evidence suggests that it received the status of an autonomous polis in the course of the dissolution of the old strategic order 8  under Trajan. 9  Finally, Bizye began minting his own coins under Hadrian. 10  According to some researchers, Philip the Arab may have passed through the Bizye area in AD 247, 11  although caution is advised when drawing such conclusions.

  1. Oberhummer 1899, Sp.552.
  2. Jurukova 1981, 2.
  3. Jurukova 1981, 1.
  4. Johnston 1983, 231; Jurukova 1981, 2.
  5. Jurukova 1981, 2.
  6. Strab. VII frag. 48.
  7. Jurukova 1981, 5; Varbanov (Vol. II) 2005, 118; Oberhummer 1899, Sp. 552.
  8. Klose 1984, 523.
  9. J. Jurukova geht von einer Stadtrechtverleihung aus. Jurukova 1981, 3. D. Klose weist aber zu Recht darauf hin, dass dies nicht notwendig der Fall ist. Klose 1984, 523.
  10. Jurukova 1981, 6; Varbanov (Vol. II) 2005, 118.
  11. Jurukova 1981, 13.

State of Research

The minting activity in Bizye has so far primarily been investigated by J. Jurukova, who has produced a stamp catalogue in the Griechisches Münzwerk series. Even though this catalogue has received justified criticism in the reviews of A. Johnston 1  and D. Klose, 2  it still largely remains the basis of our type catalogue. However, this was supplemented by the additional types listed by I. Varbanov (and considered to be authentic) as well as by other coin types which came to light in the coin trade. Additionally, we have likewise taken into account the recently published catalogue of J. Tachev  3 

  1. Johnston 1983.
  2. Klose 1984.
  3. Tachev 2019.

Minting System and Typology

The minting of the city’s bronze coinage began under Hadrian. There are two major gaps in minting, dating from AD 161 to 193 and from 217 to 244, which are probably due to economic reasons. 1  The production of coins in Bizye reached its peak during the five-year reign of Philip the Arab; afterward, all minting activity ceased.

The nominal system in Bizye is relatively complex: in addition to medallions, which can primarily be dated to the time of Philip the Arab. 2  We have differentiated a total of five nominal levels, which are called “unit”, “double unit”, “four units”, “five units” and “six units”. 3  The so-called pseudo-autonomous coins are described in our type catalogue and deviate from J. Jurukova and J. Tachev, who would like to distinguish them as “one” unit and “two” units, 4 , alternatively, all of them as “one-and-a-half” units.

  1. Klose 1984, 523.
  2. In addition, there are one medallion made under Caracalla CN_Type1454 and one medallion from the reign of Gordian CN_Type1498.
  3. See also the metrology suggested by Jurukova 1981, 17 but one should also consider the criticism of A. Johnston and D. Klose: Johnston 1983, 232–234; Klose 1984, 525.
  4. Jurukova 1981, 28f.; Tachev 2019, 82-86.

The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods

Most of the coin types minted for Hadrian and Sabina show Bizye’s fortifications on the reverse. 1  The names of the governors Maec(-ius or -ilius) Nepos/Nepotianus 2  and Quintus Tineius Rufus 3  are shown on the reverse of some coins minted under Hadrian.

Under Antoninus Pius, as well as Marcus Aurelius (as Caesar) and Faustina Minor, common deities are primarily depicted, whereby next to Zeus 4  and Demeter, 5  a preference for the healing gods Asclepius and Hygieia is unmistakable. 6  In addition, the appearance of Isis 7  on the coins of Faustina Minor is significant and can be interpreted as an indication of oriental influences in Bizye. 8 

One novelty in the coinage of the Severan period is, among others, the depiction of Capaneus, which is clearly reminiscent of the myth of the “Theban Circle”. 9  It is at this time that personifications like Nike 10  or Tyche 11  emerge in the coinage of Bizye. Additionally, a very special issue for Julia Domna, whose reverse depicts Artemis Phosphorus, deserves special mention; 12  the goddess holds an arrow in her outstretched right hand and supports herself on a long torch.

Finally, a variety of different coin types were minted under Philip the Arab. Especially remarkable are the medallions, 13  on whose reverse a quite complex ensemble of figures is usually depicted. Under him, completely new motifs appear, such as an image of the emperor with his left foot on a ship’s prow 14  or the depiction of Tyche Poleos being wreathed by a hero. 15  On the other hand, older motifs such as the banquet scene 16  and the image of Bizye’s fortifications 17  also reappear. A Homonoia imprint from the reign of Philip the Arab, on whose reverse Apollo and Artemis––the main deities of Bizye and Byzantium 18 ––are depicted, should be emphasized; they stand in front of a large torch and extend their right hands. The reverse legend reads: ΒΙΖVΗΝΩΝ ΒVΖΑΝΤΙΩΝ ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ. 19 

The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period

A surprising portion of the coinage from Bizye is reminiscent of mythological themes. The numismatic evidence suggests that Dionysus was the mythical founder of the city. 1  Furthermore, Bizye is often associated with the myth of Tereus. 2  This is probably due to a confusion between the mythical king Tereus and the Odrysian king, Teres I, founder of the Odrysian empire. 3  Solinus reports that the city of Bizye is not visited by swallows in an allusion to Philomela, the sister-in-law of Tereus who was turned into a swallow according to this myth. 4  Whether or not this myth is depicted on a much-discussed coin type from Bizye is controversial in research; we consider it rather unlikely, according to the argumentation of M. Amandry. 5  Furthermore, the "Theban Circle" appears in the coinage, especially since Bizye obviously had a close relationship to Thebes, the polis which Solinus also said was avoided by swallows. 6  The hero Capaneus had boasted in "Seven Against Thebes" that not even Zeus could save the city––whereupon he had been struck by lightning as he climbed the city walls. This myth is echoed in the coinage of Bizye, in which Capaneus depictions enjoyed great popularity. 7 

Apollo can be established as the main god of the city 8  and is often depicted in a very special pose. He stands cross-legged before an omphalos, around which a serpent winds, and holds a patera in his right hand, which is outstretched over the serpent’s head. 9  It is significant, as mentioned previously, that Apollo and Artemis can also be identified on the only Homonoia coin known from Bizye. 10 

When compared with other Thracian mints, it is clear that the reverse sides of the coins minted in Bizye do not show any local products. 11  However, the frequent depiction of Demeter 12  and the rarely documented Zeus Epikarpios are a clear indication of the importance of agriculture to the city. 13  Similarly, the frequent appearance of Dionysus 14  can be interpreted as an indication of the importance of viticulture. 15  Demeter and Dionysus enjoy great popularity alongside Hermes 16  and Poseidon 17  in the pseudo-autonomous coinage.

The fortifications of Bizye 18  are also worth mentioning, and, interestingly enough, also appear on the first coins issued under Hadrian, which is an eloquent testimony to the importance of the defence system of the former capital of the Thracian kings in early Roman times. 19  The coin image shows a city gate flanked by towers, above which there are statuary niches; above it, a figure in a quadriga can be seen. On some medallions embossed under Philip the Arab, there is also a view of the city, 20  including the gate of Bizye. A bird's-eye view of a city is quite unique in numismatic terms and is therefore a striking feature of the Bizye coinage.

Our type catalogue represents the state of research from August 2019 and does not take into consideration any coin types that have become known later. Further information, especially about new types, is always welcome.

  1. Jurukova 1981, 7.
  2. This myth, in which the Thracian king Tereus rapes his sister-in-law and receives his own son for a meal in an act of revenge by his wife and her affronted sister, resulting in the three of them being turned into birds, is extensively handed down by Ovid: Ov. Met. VI, 412–674.
  3. Jurukova 1981, 1.
  4. Sol. X 17-23.
  5. A common coin type depicts a banquet scene on the reverse. CN_Type1379; CN_Type1396; CN_Type1477; CN_Type15569. In a paper published in 2017, M. Amandry discusses whether this might be reminiscent of this myth, but decides against it for obvious reasons. See: Amandry 2017, 291-298.
  6. Jurukova 1981, 1f.
  7. CN_Type1410; CN_Type1426; CN_Type1458; CN_Type1517; CN_Type1530. On this: Stoyas 2017, 299–312.
  8. Jurukova 1981, 6f.; Klose 1984, 525.
  9. CN_Type1376; CN_Type1412; CN_Type1425; CN_Type1445; CN_Type1502; CN_Type1539; CN_Type1605; CN_Type1620.
  10. CN_Type1545.
  11. Jurukova 1981, 6.
  12. “Pseudo-autonomous” coinage: CN_Type1338. “City coinage”: CN_Type1392; CN_Type1397; CN_Type1419; CN_Type1420; CN_Type1438; CN_Type1472; CN_Type1501; CN_Type1523; CN_Type1536; CN_Type1568; CN_Type1569.
  13. Jurukova 1981, 6.
  14. “Pseudo-autonomous” coinage: CN_Type1319; CN_Type1322; CN_Type1325; CN_Type1326. “City coinage”: CN_Type1389; CN_Type1393; CN_Type1506; CN_Type1587.
  15. Jurukova 1981, 6.
  16. CN_Type1329.
  17. CN_Type1324; CN_Type1325; CN_Type1328.
  18. CN_Type1326; CN_Type1353; CN_Type1395; CN_Type1354; CN_Type1411; CN_Type1424; CN_Type1444; CN_Type1451; CN_Type1518. See: Jurukova 1981, 7; S.39; Klose 1984, 525.
  19. Jurukova 1981, 7.
  20. CN_Type1557; CN_Type1559. See: Jurukova 1981, 19.

Bibliography

  • Amandry 2017 = M. Amandry, Térée et Procné représentés sur le monnayage de Bizye, in: D. Boteva (Hrsg.), Ex Nummis Lux. Studies in Ancient Numismatics in Honour of Dimitar Draganov ( Sofia 2017) 291–298.
  • Johnston 1983 = A. Johnston, The Denominational Systems of the Greek Imperials of Bizye in Thrace, in: NC 143, 1983, 231–239.
  • Jurukova 1981 = J. Jurukova, Die Münzprägung von Bizye. Text- und Tafelband, Griechisches Münzwerk, Berlin 1981.
  • Klose 1984 = D. Klose, Rezension zu J. Jurukova, Die Münzprägung von Bizye, in: Gnomon 56, 1984, 522–528.
  • Oberhummer 1899 = E. Oberhummer, Bizye, in: RE III 1, 1899, 552.
  • Stoyas 2017 = Y. Stoyas, Where Swallows Fear to Tread. Kapaneus Teichomaches on Coins of Bizye, in: D. Boteva (Hrsg.), Ex Nummis Lux. Studies in Ancient Numismatics in Honour of Dimitar Draganov (Sofia 2017), 299–312.
  • Tachev 2019 = J. Tachev, Monetosečeneto na Bizija (The Coinage of Bizye) (Sofia 2019).
  • Varbanov (Vol. II) 2005 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins. And Their Values, Vol. 2: Thrace. From Abdera to Pautalia (Bourgas 2005).

Map